Saturday, July 10, 2010

God and the Word

Readings for Sunday, July 11:
Deuteronomy 30:10-14
Psalm 69:14,17,30-31,33-34,36,37
Colossians 1:15-20
Luke 10:25-37

Our gospel today tells us that we ought to Love God with all of heart, with all of our being, with all of our strength, and with all of our mind. Well, what if I told you that God loves you with all of Himself? Think about that for a moment. The God Who created the universe, the God who controls all things, Who brings things into and out of existence loves you. And not with a simple fondness because we are His creatures. No, He loves us with a deep, intense love and that love that He has for us desires nothing but that we turn to Him in love. If you think about it, spending eternity in Heaven is nothing other than coming to know God more than we ever can in this life and then spending that eternity in union with Him. And so ultimately, God simply wants us to know Him and to know Him deeply.

In the spring of 2007, I had a very powerful experience of this reality. I had graduated from the college seminary and had decided to take a year off from the seminary to visit a few monasteries since I had been thinking of becoming a monk. I had travelled around and visited several places but there wasn’t anything really pulling me in. At the same time I began to question whether I had a vocation to the priesthood at all. I had reconnected with a high school sweetheart and we had begun to renew that old relationship. I often agonized over the decision of whether I should return to seminary or whether I ought to pursue the relationship with her and, naturally, the vocation of marriage. For several months this went on. One night my mom came into my room and we began to talk about how my discernment was going. As our conversation progressed, we began to talk about the priesthood. I was trying to explain something and had pulled out a paper I had written at the seminary, hoping that it would clear things up. I was reading it aloud to her but found myself unable to speak when I came across the words “I know that on the day of my ordination…” At that moment, I burst into tears because I knew for the first time in a long time the vocation that I had been created for and called to pursue. Still not 100% on board with this, I told God that I would go speak with Fr. Matt Lorrain, our vocation director, in one week and that if he wanted me to pursue another path that he would have to close the door to priesthood. Now, I must add that while I was on this year out of seminary, I kept all of the spiritual disciplines they taught at the seminary, including the praying of the Liturgy of the Hours, which clergy are required to pray. For those of you not familiar with it, it’s a compilation of psalms and scriptures readings that we pray at various points throughout the day. Well, it must have been the Easter octave or something, because for 8 straight days I prayed Psalm 110 as the first part of evening prayer and part of that psalm goes “The Lord has sworn an oath He will not change. You are a priest forever, a priest like Melchizedek of old.” Imagine what went through my head as every night for a whole week when I was giving God His last chance to lead me toward the marriage vocation I continually prayed the words “You are a priest forever.” Needless to say, I was in touch with Fr. Matt the next week and well, you can probably guess the rest of the story.

The reason I tell you that story is to illustrate the fact that God speaks to us in a very real way through the scriptures. I wanted to know the vocation that would lead me to deeper union with God; and He wanted to let me know what it was. And He let me know it through His Word.

You know, we can come to experience God in a number of ways. You can experience the awesome power and beauty of God in nature, you can experience the love and mercy of God in those around us, but those things don’t always allow us to know God in a deeper way. The scriptures, however, have this capacity. They show us the beauty of God, as well as His love and mercy, but they also tell us His story. Really, He tells us His story; and stories have the power of creating bonds between people. Give us facts and we can remain disconnected; give us a story and we are drawn into a relationship. In telling you that little story about me, all of you now know a little something more about my story and knowing that can change how you look at me or how you relate to me. In the same way, the Lord desires each one of us to come to know His story and to be changed by it.

I myself have tried to enter into His story a number of times by reading the Bible cover to cover, in sections, or by picking random books. Each time I tried. Each time I failed. I’m sure many of you have tried the same thing and experienced the same results. And for those of you who succeeded, God bless you, you’re more patient than I am! Inevitably I would be reading and then come to a part that just bored me to tears or lost me totally. Whether it was the “Blah blah blah begot so-and-so, and so-and-so begot two sons, what’s-his-name and what’s-his-face” or the seemingly endless descriptions of events, people and places that I couldn’t pronounce or find much interest in. My problem was that each time I lost sight of the big picture because of the details; I lost the story. The key is to stay focused on the story because when we do so, we understand the story. And when we understand the story, we begin to enter into that deeper relationship with God.

If you keep up with the ‘From the Pastor’ section in the bulletin, you will have noticed that over the course of the past month we have been advertising a Bible study on Thursday evenings at 7pm, starting on July 22, just a couple of weeks away. I want to invite you to join with us as we begin ‘The Great Adventure Bible Study,’ the program that we will be using during our gatherings. The beautiful thing about this program is that the creator, Jeff Cavins, suffered from the same troubles reading the Bible as the rest of us and wanted to make a way to read it that would be easier. The Great Adventure, as it is called, is nothing more than the stripping away of the extra stuff in the Bible so that we can stick to reading the story and not get caught up in all the details. It is presented this way so that we can understand the story and then begin to fill in the pieces and build up that relationship that God so desires us to have with Him.

I’ve heard some really good things about this program and look forward to learning some things myself as we go through it. I realize that not all of you will sign up for it – if everyone did at all of the Masses we’d be having to rent out the River Center downtown, which would be neat. But I hope that all of you realize that the scriptures are not just words in a book. They are the God of all creation speaking to us, inviting us to learn about Him and to enter into a relationship with Him. As the Lord spoke to me in the words of Psalm 110, he wants to speak to you as well. You have only to open the book and listen to His voice.